Nearly 100 residents of Dhanbad district undertook a padayatra braving rain and covered over 24km for two days to create awareness about air pollution in Dhanbad and Jharia belts of Jharkhand and its adverse impact on the natives.
The padayatra, which began from Putki block on Friday morning, traversed through the coal hubs of Dhanbad and Jharia and culminated at Jorapokhar on Saturday evening.
According to the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) annual report released in June 2022, Jharkhand is India’s eighth most-polluted state.
While Jharia had topped the list of polluted towns in India among the 313 surveyed in a 2019 Greenpeace India (Airpocalypse-IV) report, Dhanbad was the second most polluted. The report found that the PM (particulate matter) 10 level in Jharia was 295 µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter) in 2017. Greenpeace said Jharia’s air would have 207 µg/m3 of PM 10 even if air pollution levels were trimmed by 30 per cent by 2024.
Dhanbad followed Jharia to be the second most polluted city in the same report having a PM-10 level at 264 µg/m3.
“I have already filed PIL in Jharkhand High Court against rampant tree felling and air pollution in Dhanbad and Jharia which are the most polluted towns in the country. It has been listed for hearing on October 9. I have also planted 500 trees in schools and temple premises earlier this year and spent money from my own pocket to nurture the trees. But I realised that single man’s effort would not bear much fruit and decided to involve more through such an awareness campaign,” said Ranjit Singh, president of Gramin Ekta Manch.
Singh, who is a contractor by profession, undertook the padayatra under the aegis of the Manch.
“The padayatra had natives of local villages and so is the name Gramin Ekta Manch. We began from Putki block on Friday and reached Dhanbad city late at night and took a night halt during which traders, doctors, and academicians visited us and extended their solidarity to our cause. Physicians told us how children and adults are being impacted due to the air pollution and this increased our morale,” admitted Singh.
Singh and over 100 members of the Manch started the padayatra from Dhanbad till Jorapokhar in Jharia braving rain spells due to the low pressure in the Bay of Bengal.
“Despite the rain, people met us and we informed them about the harmful effects of air pollution and made them aware of the importance of planting trees and also the environmental rules violation by coal PSUs especially Bharat Coking Coal Limited in Dhanbad and Jharia which is felling trees for its coal mines operation,” said Singh.